Poultry owners encouraged to practice biosecurity

Published 10:00 am Saturday, February 5, 2022

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed Highly Pathogenic Eurasian H5N1 Avian Influenza (HPAI) in wild waterfowl in North Carolina and South Carolina. Additionally, HPAI has been identified in a mixed poultry flock in Newfoundland, Canada. HPAI has not been detected in a wild bird in the United States since 2016.

“All poultry owners should take practical biosecurity measures to protect their birds from Avian Influenza. Biosecurity measures include preventing exposure of poultry to areas where wild birds are present, and being vigilant about not bringing infectious materials from wild birds into contact with poultry,” said Dr. Charlie Broaddus, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. Biosecurity information to include videos, checklists, and a toolkit, is available at www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program/dtf-resources/dtf-resources. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.

Since wild birds can be infected with these viruses without appearing sick, people should minimize direct contact with wild birds by using gloves. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water, and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds. Hunters should dress game birds in the field whenever possible and practice good biosecurity to prevent any potential disease spread. Hunters can find additional biosecurity information at www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/2015/fsc_hpai_hunters.pdf. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to the general public from HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human infections with Eurasian H5 viruses have occurred in the United States. The proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI. While the CDC considers this type of HPAI virus as a low risk to humans, it is a serious threat to poultry farms and owners of backyard flocks.

In addition to practicing biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to the State Veterinarian’s Office at (804) 692-0601 or at vastatevet@vdacs.virginia.gov or through the USDA’s toll-free number, (866) 536-7593.